FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – Northwest Arkansans who didn’t complete high school will soon have a place in their backyard to go back to school and get their high school diploma.
The state Board of Education recently passed the expansion of Goodwill’s Excel Center which will add schools in Northwest Arkansas and potentially the River Valley.
Before 2018 there was no place in Arkansas people older than 19 could go back to school and get a High school diploma. That was until Goodwill opened an Excel Center in Little Rock, and since then, it’s been opening doors and changing lives.
“I have a 17-year old, and something I was never able to do was tell him to go get out his homework, take out your algebra and let’s get it, and to be able to help him with that and do it efficiently,” said recruitment and retention specialist for Goodwill Melvin Williams.
Williams was a student at the original Excel Center in Arkansas, and now he’s a High School graduate, and now he’s an enrolled college student.
“To be able to get my diploma and go through doors that I couldn’t before, It’s really an incredible feeling. You feel like you can do anything, and to some people, it may be small, but you know for me, I had a feeling of hope,” said Williams.
CEO of Goodwill, Brian Marsh, says right now the Excel Center can support 350 students, and the goal of opening two more schools up north is to get that number to more than 1000.
“There are more than 40,000 adults in Benton and Washinton County without a high school diploma,” said Marsh. “There are 350,000 Arkansans without a high school diploma. With the way the world is changing, it is getting harder and harder for these people to get a job.”
Once open, the school will offer sit-in classes, free tuition, and life coaches to best set its students up for success.
Marsh says that it has yet to be determined when it comes to the specific location of these two news schools. They know one will be in either Benton or Washington County; the second could be in Fort Smith or Northeast Arkansas. If all goes according to plan, the schools could be open as soon as the fall.